‘Jobs coming out of my ears’: Blistering job market in ad tech squeezes publishers

stressed ceo

The shift to a post-cookie world is going to happen a bit more gradually than hoped. And that changed timeline is going to heat up an already-frenzied ad tech hiring market, as the ad tech IPO market comes back to life, the media industry prepares for life after third-party cookies and the media and marketing industries resume the hiring that most paused last year.

Through the first half of 2021, there are more jobs than candidates who can fill them, with supply and demand so out of whack that even relatively junior roles now command six-figure salaries, as platforms, startups and consultancies all scour the market for suitable talent, multiple recruiters told Digiday.

“I’ve got jobs coming out of my ears,” said Gali Darchi, an independent ad tech recruiter who operates out of London.

The gas fueling this run comes from a few different sources. First, the IPO market for ad tech has come back to life, as investors cast about for things to do with the basically free money sloshing around in the markets. That’s given some ad tech firms a sudden urgency to grow revenue very quickly, in the hopes of being able to tell investors a compelling story before going public.

“The public markets are so hot,” said Avi Mally, the CEO of Three Pillars Recruiting. “There’s this feeling [among founders], ‘I’ve got this 18-month window, let me push the envelope hard and make revenue growth a top priority.’” 

Second, the entire media ecosystem is preparing — albeit with less urgency — for the end of the third-party cookie, which has pushed brands and advertisers to figure out how to use all the data, not just for their own marketing and strategy but in an everyday way to execute ad campaigns.

That has created demand, not just among brands, but among consultancies as well, that are eager to shepherd brands into the post-cookie landscape, and potentially help them sell as well.

“We have this new breed or type of business [looking for this talent], and that’s the consultancies,” Darchi said, noting that some of this interest is being spurred by agencies that are spinning up their own consultancies. 

Third, the hiring boom is, in some ways, catching up a bit from last year. The ad market’s initial plunge last spring forced many companies to lay people off, and the ensuing uncertainty paralyzed many firms and kept them from making bets that typically lead to hires.

“Last year sucked,” Mally said. “You had just everybody put hiring on pause.” 

In addition to those macroeconomic factors, a handful of large companies are putting pressure on the rest of the market just with their own hiring. “TikTok is hiring anybody they can,” said an executive at one large media company that’s lost engineering talent to the fast-growing video app this year.

TikTok, sources said, has been particularly aggressive because it’s trying to keep momentum behind an ad business that has quickly gotten traction with ad buyers.

All this demand for talent, recruiters said, has begun to warp the kinds of offers they now make. Software engineers, as always, are in high demand. But the upheaval around cookies, the pressure to prove that advertising works, and brands’ ongoing preference to work more closely with fewer, bigger partners have driven up the price for account managers in particular.

“A 2-, 3-year account management guy is now making $100,000,” Mally said. “Even we’re surprised.” 

And, as is so often the case when it comes to technology, publishers are the group getting squeezed the hardest. In addition to the challenge of matching the base compensation that a large platform or venture-funded startup might offer, most can’t offer the stock options or startup shares that a startup might. 

“Any publisher just needs to know that their teams are getting raided,” Mally said. “It’s very hard for them to change their business from an economic perspective without having lots of scale.” 

As harried as things feel at the moment, the feeling bears a resemblance to the frenzy that gathered around DMPs about three years ago, and traders two years before that. 

“To me, it’s another ring in a chain,” Darchi said, “that, in about two years’ time, will have something else.” 


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